The world of work in the 21st century requires a multi-skilled and self-sufficient labour force
Today’s challenging business environment is a reminder to organisations that talent management, wherein employees’ skills are appropriately deployed to optimise performance, is a critical function. The world is moving at a fast pace and rapidly changing, and the reality is that organisations rise or fall on the strength of their employees. Organisations need to ensure that their employees are well skilled and equipped to engage the emerging changes.
While identifying the 21st century skills considered most important is challenging, the following have in particular received close and concerted attention from policy makers, researchers and practitioners: critical thinking, creativity, metacognition, problem solving, collaboration, motivation, self-efficacy, conscientiousness, and grit or perseverance.
The African Leadership University (ALU) focuses on developing the “seven key meta skills – the 21st-century skills and characteristics that top employers around the globe seek and that define leaders and entrepreneurs.” One of the key meta skills are defined as entrepreneurial thinking, of which the key characteristics include: systems thinking, identifying opportunities, human-centred thinking, creativity and innovation, and continuous iteration.
While the specific skills deemed to be “21st century skills” may be defined, categorised, and determined differently from person to person, place to place, or school to school, the term does reflect a general—if somewhat loose and shifting—consensus which almost always contains reference to critical thinking and reasoning, and creativity and innovation. Future thinking is a new way of approaching tomorrow by thinking beyond strategy. Skills audits and yearly workplace skills plans (WSPs) could successfully imply a complete re-alignment of your organisation’s strategy, operations, workforce configuration and skills requirements.
Workplace skills planning and the importance of investing in learning
A WSP is an important tool in assisting organisations to address their learning and development needs. The WSP requires organisations to identify their skills priorities in line with the business strategy, identify the subsequent skills gaps that exist within their workforce through a training needs analysis; and develop or search for the best learning solutions for their employees’ career ambitions. Every organisation is required to develop a workplace skills plan annually for submission to their relevant SETA. This enables organisations to be held accountable for the implementation of skills development in their relevant sector and industry.
A well thought-through WSP provides organisations with an understanding of the skills that exist within the organisation, the current and future skills needed and the investment in training required for the year ahead. With a WSP in place, organisations benefit from a better-skilled workforce and demonstrate their commitment to comply with current B-BBEE codes and gain a competitive edge by being recognised as an employer of choice. Organisations are fully able to consider both current and future needs by identifying gaps through a skills audit, integrating needs in their performance managements systems, implement succession planning initiatives and new processes/technological changes. With a planned and structured approach to learning, organisations have the advantage to benefit from numerous incentives and a better skilled (and more productive) workforce.
It is important to use a credible training provider to execute the organisation’s WSP objectives. Not only do organisations establish a good rapport with their respective SETAs when they use recognised training providers with recognised standards, but it also enables organisations to use discretionary funding for their planned learning interventions.
Thinking beyond the future is now. Taking your business strategy into consideration, it is important to determine which skills you already have in your organisation, which skills you want to develop and which skills you still need in order to optimally deliver on your business mandate. This requires a strategic partnership that not only provides you with the necessary know-how, but also the appropriate tools to craft a customised WSP that meets your organisational goals.
Enterprises University of Pretoria (Enterprises UP) has the ability to provide research and advisory solutions across the full life cycle of services as well as well as a comprehensive portfolio of training programmes and short courses. Drawing on the knowledge of academic and industry experts from the University of Pretoria (UP), their track record includes high-quality, customised and practical solutions that sets them apart from a traditional skill development and research organisation.
Read more about our Workplace Skills Indexing solution and the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) solution to assist your organisation optimise productivity.
 Future Frontiers Analytical Report: Key Skills for the 21st Century – an evidence-based review. Centre for International Research on Education Systems. Victoria University. Melbourne, Australia
 The Glossary of Education Reform, https://www.edglossary.org/21st-century-skills/
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